About The State Defense Force

US Military Forces Diagram (Click For Larger Image)

The State Defense Forces are a State Authorized Military Force that supports, assists, & augments The National Guard and Civilian Authorities. The State Defense Force is authorized under Federal law 32 U.S.C. s.109. They provide a trained force multiplier to The National Guard and civilian agencies in the following capacities:

Aviation Support
Chaplain Services
Chemical & Radiation Decontamination
Civil Affairs
Cyber Security
Honor Guard
Judge Advocate General
Public Affairs
Search & Rescue
Wildland Firefighting

& Other Specialized Missions listed – Here

During peacetime the State Defense Force provides a force multiplier to augment and assist National Guard Forces for mission support or mobilization assistance. During wartime, Upon order from The Governor, The State Defense Force can assume Military Responsibility of The State if The National Guard is deployed overseas. This would involve continuing the active missions the National Guard operates on a daily basis until their return from Overseas duty.


The State Defense Forces were created in 1917 when the Judge Advocate General of the US Military approved the formation of State Militias under the 1914 Militia Act. This allowed the States to form Home Guards that would assume the duties of the National Guard as they deployed to Europe. The Home Guard secured key vital state infrastructure against sabotage from enemy agents. When the National Guard returned to their States the Home Guards were deactivated. Over 100,000 Troops served in the Home Guard during World War I.

As tensions in Europe heated up and erupted into war in 1939, Congress amended Section 61 of the US Code to allow states to organize and maintain State Defense Forces if their National Guard were activated by the Federal Government. The State Defense Force or State Guards as they were also referred to were tasked with four missions during World War II:

  • Perform the peacetime duties of the National Guard
  • Emergency Guard Duty in Coastal Regions
  • If in the event of invasion by Japan or Axis Powers, assist the US Military in response operations
  • Provide Internal Security at State Infrastructure Locations to Prevent Sabotage from Enemy Agents

Following the end of World War II, the State Defense Forces / State Guards were deactivated from service in 1947. Approximately 200,000 Troops served in the State Defense Force during World War II.

When the Korean War ignited, State Defense Forces were once again needed. The States requested the need of State Defense Forces to fulfill National Guard stateside missions as they were deployed overseas. In 1956 the United States Congress amended US Code Title 32, Section 109 to allow the States to organize and maintain a state defense force permanently. Since then many States kept their State Defense Force active with the mission to support, assist and augment the National Guard during peacetime, and in times of war to assume the National Guard stateside missions as they deploy overseas. Over the next 50 years the State Defense Force performed this mission successfully.

During and following September 11 2001, many State Defense Forces were activated and were relied on as the United States Military utilized the National Guard in the War on Terror and Iraq. State Defense Forces have assisted the National Guard during their deployment and demobilization processes as well as assisting with Stateside missions, and disaster response missions. Many State Defense Forces have since been authorized by their National Guard Adjutant General (TAG) to expand their mission set to include Search & Rescue missions, Cyber Security & Response missions, Point of Distribution missions, as well as Wildfire Firefighting. The future of the State Defense Force is bright especially with the increased focus on supporting, assisting and augmenting the National Guard.


For Non-Prior State Defense Force troops, recruits undergo an initial basic training that varies in duration amoung the State Defense Forces. After basic training troops undergo Job training in their specified field. Upon graduation the troops become Active Duty members of The State Defense Force. Prior Service are excluded from this basic training as their Federal Training qualifies them for service.

During Inactive Duty Training (IDT) weekends, State Defense Forces assist the National Guard in a variety of missions from mission support, mobilization assistance, legal assistance, medical support, etc., as well as developing their skillset to any missions assigned to them by The Adjutant General (TAG). Such missions include setting up an Emergency Radio Network, Setting Up Shelter Management Operations for Evacuees, Point Of Distribution (PODs) supply points during emergencies.


State Defense Forces require their troops to serve the same Inactive Duty Training (IDT) requirements as the National Guard. This would include one weekend a month and One to Two weeks a year of Annual Training.


The State Defense Force is a voluntary force that is unpaid for Inactive Duty Training (IDT) and operational support. During State emergencies or State Active Duty missions The State Defense Force can be activated by The Governor and recieve pay according to State law.


More than half of the State Defense Forces ranks are composed of Prior Service Personnel.  Prior Service US Army, Navy, Air Force, National Guard, Coast Guard and Marine Corps troops all currently serve in The State Defense Forces.  Prior Service personnel that join The State Defense Forces return with their current rank or higher.  State Defense Forces honor any awards or medals Prior Service personnel achieved during Federal Service.


State Defense Forces do have troops on continuous Active Duty missions. Troops are placed on State Active Duty (SAD) and perform the duties of that military occupational specialty. Examples of such missions include the California State Guard having full time troops performing Force Protection duty at the Joint Forces Los Alamitos Base.


Members of The State Defense Force are subject to their State’s Uniform Code of Military Justice. They are bound under State law to abide by military regulation and law.


The State Defense Force is a State Military Force and as such its members are covered under State law for job protection.


Members of The State Defense Force are authorized to wear the military uniform assigned by The Adjustant General of the State. Many State Defense Forces wear the current Army Uniform with some modifications that differentiate them from US Military troops such as Black Covers (Hats), State Flag instead of the US Flag, etc.


State Defense Force’s can deploy outside of the State under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).  These deployments are ordered by the Governor of the State and The Adjutant General (Senior National Guard General) and usually require State Defense Force troops to volunteer for such missions. Such deployments occurred during natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Maria.


There has only been one deployment of a State Defense Force unit being deployed outside of the United States. In 2006, The Maryland Defense Force 10th Medical Regiment joined the Maryland Air National Guard on a medical / humanitarian mission to Bosnia & Herzegovina.